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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fact-finding mission damning Workers’ alliance belies Keppel management’s claim

“It is regrettable that the Keppel Shipyard management treats the Oct. 7 incident as mere ‘human error’ and tries to deceive the public with this line. Our fact-finding mission found irregularities in Keppel’s health and safety practices which caused the tragic incident that claimed the lives of at least six (6) workers and injured seven (7) others.”


This was the statement of the Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines (MWAP) – an alliance of workers in the metal industry including workers in the automotive, electronics, shipbuilding, mining and steel industries – at a press conference today in Quezon City announcing the findings of the fact-finding mission on the Oct. 7 incident in the Keppel Subic Shipyard.


The Fact Finding Mission representatives were Reden Alcantara and Roy Galvez, Metalworkers Alliance of the Philippines (MWAP), Noel Colina and Elginreb Domopoy of Institute for Occupational Health & Safety Development (IOHSAD), Arman Hernando of Center for Trade Union & Human Rights (CTUHR). Elmer Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) joined them during the conference.


MWAP said interviews with witnesses revealed the following:
(1) The steel tower ramp, which fell on the workers, was shaky, lacking the 10-ton support that normally comes with it.

(2) There was only one boom when the incident happened – a deviation from the common practice of using four booms when a ramp is being repaired.

(3) When the cables supporting the 250-ton stern ramp collapsed, the tower immediately collapsed as it cannot sustain the former’s weight.


“We hold the management of the Keppel Shipyard responsible for non-implementation of mechanisms ensuring workers’ occupational health and safety and workers’ lives. We call on the government to conduct a thorough investigation and help shed light on the real reasons and lessons of the incident,” said Reden Alcantara, MWAP secretary-general.


“We cannot simply ignore the fact that six workers died in an accident that could have been avoided if the Keppel management followed standard safety procedures. We call on President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III not to turn a blind eye on this matter. The Oct. 7 incident in Keppal cannot be dismissed as yet another ‘isolated case’ of ‘an accident’,” he added.


MWAP said the incident in Keppel Shipyard should be a wake-up call for the government, especially with regard to upholding occupational health and safety in the shipbuilding and shipyard industry.


“It is very alarming that many occupational health accidents are happening in the shipbuilding and shipyard industry. Aside from Keppel, Hanjin Shipyard in Subic has had deaths of over 40 workers arising from industrial accidents. This industry requires the highest standards of occupational health and safety due to the dangers inherent in it,” Alcantara said.


The workers’ alliance likewise called on the government to review the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s jurisdiction over the country’s special economic zones to make the Peza at least conform with existing labor laws.


“We are alarmed by the fact that investigators and even Subic Mayor Jay Khonghun were initially denied entry to the company premises because it is under the jurisdiction of PEZA. Why is this so? Is Keppel so powerful as to have its own laws and regulations that are contrary to Philippine laws?” Alcantara further said.


MWAP vowed to bring the fact-finding mission’s initial findings to the Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment to urge the body to conduct an investigation into the incident in aid of legislation. Reden Alcantara

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